Pets in France

General informations

The French are generally unsentimental about pets (and animals in general) and keep them as much for practical purposes (e.g. to guard premises or catch vermin) or as fashion accessories as for companionship. Nevertheless, pets are more widely tolerated than in many other countries.

French hotels usually quote a rate for pets (e.g. €8 per night), and most restaurants allow dogs and many provide food and water (some even allow owners to seat their pets at the table!). There are even exclusive dog restaurants. Although food shops make an effort to bar pets, it isn’t unusual to see a supermarket trolley containing a dog or two (the French don’t take much notice of ‘no dogs’ signs). There’s usually no discrimination against dogs when renting accommodation, although they may be prohibited in furnished apartments. Paris has a pet cemetery ( cimetière des chiens) at Asnières and there are others in Nice, Toulouse and Villepinte.

Exporting & Importing Pets to France

If you plan to take a pet ( animal domestique or animal de compagnie) to France, it’s important to check the latest regula­tions. Make sure that you have the correct papers, not only for France but for all the countries you will pass through to reach France. Particular consideration must be given before exporting a pet from a country with strict quarantine regulations in case you wish to re-import it later.

For example, if you’re exporting a cat or a dog or certain other animals from the UK, you should obtain a ‘passport’ for them confirming that they’ve been microchipped and that their vaccinations are up to date. You must then continue to have them vaccinated regularly while in France. If you fail to do this and want to bring your pets back to the UK at any time, they will need to be quarantined for six months.

The cost of a pet passport (i.e. the tests and vaccinations required to obtain one) is around GB£165, plus GB£60 per year for follow-up vaccinations and around GB£20 for a border check on re-entry to the UK. Note that you may have to make arrangements well in advance; for example, a pet must be blood tested at least six months before it can be taken to the UK. Details of the scheme, known as PETS, can be obtained from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. An EU pet passport is due to be introduced soon.

You can take up to three animals into France at any time, one of which may be a puppy (three to six months old), although no dogs or cats under three months may be imported. Two psittacidae (parrot-like birds) can be imported into France and up to ten smaller species; all require health certificates issued within five days of departure. Other animals require import permits from the French Ministry of Agriculture.

If you’re transporting a pet to France by ship or ferry, you should notify the ferry company. Some companies insist that pets are left in vehicles (if applicable), while others allow pets to be kept in cabins. If your pet is of nervous disposition or unused to travelling, it’s best to tranquillise it on a long sea crossing. Pets can also be transported by air and certain pets can be carried with you (in an approved container), for which there’s a charge (e.g. around €100 one-way from the US).

There are companies which will accommodate your pets while you move, take care of all export requirements and ship them to you when you’ve settled in, e.g. Pinehawk Kennels & Livestock Shippers (01223-290249) in the UK.

Pet vaccinations for France

France has almost eradicated rabies by vaccinating foxes, although there have recently been a number of reported cases in dogs (one in 2001, one in 2002 and three in the first half of 2004). Although there’s generally no quarantine period for animals imported into France, there are strict vaccination requirements for dogs in certain departments, where they must be vaccinated against rabies and have a certificat contre la rage or have a health certificate ( certificat de bonne santé), signed by an approved veterinary surgeon and issued no more than five days before their arrival. Resident dogs need an annual rabies booster and it’s recommended that they’re also vaccinated ( vacciné) against the following diseases:

  • Babesia canis , also known as Piroplasma canis or Canine piroplasmosis ( piroplasmose), a parasitic disease carried by ticks ( tiques*) that also affects horses and cattle.
  • Distemper or Carré’s disease ( la maladie de Carré, also known as la maladie des jeunes chiens and la maladie du jeune âge, as it mainly affects young animals), a potentially fatal viral infection.
  • Hepatitis contagiosa canis or Rubarth’s disease ( hépatite de Rubarth), an acute viral disease which attacks the liver.
  • Leptosporosis ( leptospirose), a bacterial disease which can be transmitted to humans and can be fatal.
  • Parvovirus or Parvo ( parvovirose), an intestinal virus.
  • Tracheobronchitis, known as kennel cough ( toux de chenil), which is one of the most common canine diseases and can lead to fatal complications.

Ticks are a problem in many parts of France and can be lethal. You should invest in a tick-remover (around €3.50 from vets) and treat your pets regularly with a preventive such as Frontline.

Vaccinations ( vaccin) are initially in two stages, a ‘booster’ ( rappel) being administered three or four weeks after the initial injection ( piqure); a single annual renewal is required. Each injection costs between around €35 and €60, depending on the vet. Serums must be administered separately.

Cats aren’t required to have regular rabies vaccinations, although if you let your cat roam free outside your home it’s advisable to have it vaccinated annually and a rabies vaccination is compulsory for cats entering Corsica or being taken to campsites or holiday parks. All cats must, however, be vaccinated against feline gastro-enteritis and typhus.

All vaccinations must be registered with your veterinary surgeon ( vétérinaire) and be listed on your pet’s vaccination card or (preferably) in a livret international de santé, which, if you plan to take your pets abroad, must also certify that the animal has been confined to countries that have been rabies-free for at least three years.

Sterilisation

Sterlisation of pets isn’t common practice in France, where stray dogs and cats are a problem in many areas. Nevertheless, vets are familiar with the procedures, which are usually straightforward. Sterilisation of bitches and female cats not only prevents them from becoming pregnant but can also protect them against the canine equivalent of breast cancer ( cancer des mamelles), provided the operation is carried out before the animal’s first heat. Sterilising a bitch costs between around €130 and €300 depending on the size of the animal, and the vet; sterilisation of female cats costs around €120. Castration of male dogs and cats costs approximately half as much and can be beneficial if an animal is aggressive or prone to running away.

Dogs in France

There are around 17 dogs to every 100 people in France, one of the highest ratios in the world, and an unofficial dog population of some 10m (over 500,000 in Paris alone). Around 40 per cent of French people list their dogs as the most important thing in their lives (even more important than their lovers!) and the French spend some €3 billion on them annually; there’s at least one ‘poodle-parlour’ ( salon de toilettage) in every town and there’s even a canine pâtisserie in Paris, called unimaginatively ‘Mon Bon Chien’, where pampered pooches can be kitted out with haute couture clothing as well as treated to haute cuisine ‘cakes’. On the other hand, many dogs are kept outdoors and some are almost permanently penned. It’s rare to see French people walking their dogs (except for ‘show’).

Dogs don’t wear identification discs and there’s no system of licensing. However, all dogs born after 6th January 1999 must be given an official identifying number, either in the form of a tattoo or contained in a microchip inserted under their skin. This rule is designed to make it easier to find the owners of stray dogs and to reduce the incidence of ‘dog trafficking’. Around 100,000 dogs are abandoned by their owners every year, many at the start of the long summer holiday or after the hunting season is over, and stray dogs are regularly rounded up and taken to the local pound ( fourrière) to be destroyed.

A further 60,000 dogs are stolen each year and certain breeds are highly prized. It’s therefore recommended to have your dog tattooed or chipped even if it was born before this date. Some vets favour tattooing ( tatouage) because the number is visible, whereas reading a microchip ( puce) requires a special machine. Others recommend microchipping because a tattoo can be removed or wear off. Identity numbers are kept in a central computer controlled by the French Society for the Protection of Animals (Société Protectrice des Animaux/SPA), which is organised on a departmental basis. Contact your nearest SPA office if you lose your pet.

Dogs must be kept on leads in most public parks and gardens and there are large fines for dog owners who don’t comply. Dogs are forbidden in some parks, even when on leads, and on most beaches in summer. On public transport, pets weighing less than 6kg (13lb) must usually be carried in a basket or cage; larger dogs must wear a muzzle and be kept on a lead. Some 500,000 people are bitten by dogs each year, 60,000 of whom are hospitalised, and certain breeds of dog (e.g. pit-bull terriers) must be muzzled in public places.

The unpleasant aspect of France’s vast dog population is abundantly evident on the pavements of towns and cities, where dogs routinely leave their ‘calling cards’ (officially known as déjections canines). You must always watch where you walk: many pavements aren’t trottoirs but ‘ crottoirs’. Over 600 Parisians are hospitalised every year after slipping on dog dirt, and there’s a national association of mothers called Inter-Mamans, who have threatened to ‘donate’ their children’s soiled nappies to mayors throughout France unless they take action to clear the streets of dog mess! In Paris and some other cities, there are dog toilet areas. However, most dog owners take their pets to a local park or car park or simply let them loose in the streets to do their business, although allowing your pooch to poop on the pavement is illegal and you can be fined up to €450 if you don’t ‘scoop’ up after it.

At the very least, owners are required to take their pets to the kerb to relieve themselves; you’re reminded by dog silhouettes on the footpath in Paris and other cities, where signs encourage owners to teach their dogs to use gutters (‘ Apprenez-lui le caniveau’), which are regularly cleaned and disinfected. The capital’s patrols of motorised pooper-scoopers ( moto-crottes), which once picked up four tonnes of doggy-do daily, are being phased out in favour of ‘hygiene inspectors’ dishing out on-the-spot fines. (Although it’s little consolation, it’s supposedly good luck to tread in something unpleasant.)

Kennels & Catteries

There are many kennels and catteries ( refuge pour animaux or pension canine/féline), where fees are around €6 per day for cats and €9 for dogs. A free list of over 300 kennels and catteries, Le Guide des Voyages et des Pensions, is available from Royal Canin, a pet food company (08 00 41 51 61), or you can search for a suitable kennel/cattery on the Royal Canin website (www.royalcanin.fr – click on ‘ Bien le soigner’ and then on ‘ Le faire garder’). If you plan to leave your pet at a kennel or cattery, book well in advance, particularly for school holiday periods.

Health & Pet insurance in France

Veterinary surgeons ( vétérinaire) are well trained in France, where it’s a highly popular and well-paid profession. Emergency veterinary care is available in major cities, where there are also animal hospitals ( hôpital pour animaux) and vets on 24-hour call for emergencies. A visit to a vet usually costs €23 to €30. Some vets also make house calls, for which there’s a minimum charge of around €60 to €80. Taxi and ambulance services are also provided for pets.

Medical treatment for dogs can be just as expensive as human treatment (e.g. €200 for a scan and over €500 for a major operation) – and it isn’t reimbursed by social security. Health insurance for pets is available from a number of insurance companies but in most cases provides only partial cover. There are essentially two types of pet insurance: insurance against accidents and insurance against illness and accidents. The former costs around €70 or €80 per year and covers only medical and surgical costs resulting from accidental injury, e.g. a broken bone, poisoning or a bite by another dog. The latter, which costs at least twice as much, also covers the treatment of certain illnesses and diseases.

As with human health insurance, you should check exactly what is and isn’t covered and what conditions apply. Certain treatment may be excluded, e.g. vaccinations, sterilisation or castration, dental treatment and cancer screening, as may certain hereditary diseases. Conditions may include an upper age limit (usually nine or ten years for dogs), a waiting period (of up to four months) before insurance becomes effective, an annual claim limit (generally between €800 and €1,600) and an excess or deductible ( franchise), which often applies to every claim and can be as much as 30 per cent.

Pet insurance doesn’t cover you for third-party liability, e.g. if your pet bites someone or causes an accident, which should be included in your household insurance; check with your insurer.

If you wish to have your pet cremated, you must now pay €150 (the service was previously free), although you may bury an animal weighing up to 35kg in your garden.

Information

For the latest regulations regarding the importation and keeping of pets in France contact the Sous-Direction de la Santé et de la Protection Animales, Ministère de l’Agriculture, de la Pêche et de l’Alimentation (01 56 79 21 21, www.agriculture.gouv.fr  – click on ‘ Ressources’). If you wish to import an exotic pet or more pets than the standard quota, contact the Direction Générale des Douanes (01 40 04 04 04, www.douane.gouv.fr  – the website has information in English under ‘Introduction of pets into France’).

Further details of the British pet passport scheme can be obtained from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA, 020-7238 6951 or 0845-933 5577, www.defra.gov.uk ). A useful book is Travel Tips for Cats and Dogs by David Prydie (Ringpress Books).

This article is an extract from Living and working in France. Click here to get a copy now.

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